UGA CAES launches ag data science certificate program
From remote moisture sensors that produce a real-time feed of soil conditions to drones that use optical data to spot plant disease, the next green revolution will be fueled by new streams of data.
Remote sensing technologies will offer farmers the ability to customize irrigation and fertilizer applications for areas that have unique characteristics within fields, which will reduce costs and environmental impacts. However, putting precision agriculture strategies into practice requires agricultural scientists who are equipped to interpret the data that these sensors generate.
In fall 2018, the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) will launch an interdisciplinary Certificate in Agricultural Data Science to equip CAES graduate students with the data analysis expertise that they will need to capitalize on this big data revolution.
“In other disciplines — business and health care — programs that are focused on data science have already taken off,” said Harald Scherm, professor and head of UGA’s Department of Plant Pathology. “But there is no such formal program in agricultural data science. We think there is a need for that.”
CAES’ certificate program will be one of the first of its kind in the nation.
CAES faculty members have heard from students, researchers and employers that there is a need for data analysis expertise in agricultural research and applied agricultural science, said Scherm, who worked with colleagues in the UGA statistics and computer science departments and in the UGA College of Engineering to develop the certificate program.
Through the certificate, current and future CAES graduate students will plan a schedule of elective and related courses that will complement their agricultural research and expose them to a wide range of principles and practices of data analysis.
“The goal of the graduate certificate is to develop a curriculum that will produce cross-disciplinary and cross-functional, data-smart graduates who can bridge the gaps between the generation, analysis and interpretation of complex data in the agricultural field,” Scherm said. “We’re not looking to train computer scientists, but we want them to be able to discuss data issues and incorporate analysis into their practice.”
A summer 2017 survey of CAES graduate students showed that almost 90 percent were interested in the certificate program, and almost 50 percent said they were definitely interested in learning to integrate big data science into their disciplines. The certificate program will be open to all graduate students at UGA but will be most helpful to those studying agriculture or environmental sciences, Scherm said.
CAES’ interdisciplinary Certificate in Agricultural Data Science will leverage UGA’s strength in agricultural research and UGA’s campuswide informatics initiative to build a reputation as a leader in agricultural data science, Scherm said. Elective courses will be drawn from four different colleges (CAES, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and Family and Consumer Sciences) and two Institutes (Georgia Informatics Initiative and Institute of Bioinformatics).